Friday, January 27, 2012


I’m a picky person. I don't like very many things. I find the majority of fruits to be a bit too squishy, a small population of vegetables to be horrifying (brussel sprouts, lima beans, peas, cauliflower, etc.), most nuts to be too nutty. I don’t care for most sodas, the majority of tropical-themed juices, and anything MinuteMaid makes my teeth hurt.

And so it constantly surprises me how much I like wine. And how much I like all of the varietals. It's very rare that I'm horrified by a wine, Cupcake Red Velvet, being the most recent exception to the rule. (If it's a sweet red that makes non-wine drinkers go: "Mmm! Tastes like chocolate!" then I probably hate it. And it's probably Cupcake Red Velvet.)

Maybe a year ago, I would have put quite a few varietals in the list of things I didn’t care for – Shiraz, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir. But time and money have conquered most of these dislikes and turned them into loves. I have already chronicled my fear of Pinot Noir and the Oregon summer that lead me to drinking more regularly than a Cabernet or Merlot… But I haven’t spoken about many white wines.

I’ll start with Chardonnay. The Chardonnay obstacle was a mental roadblock - buttery whites that dominate female ordering on 90s television shows spelled out a “No thanks!” for me. The name even sounds terrible. When I say it in my head I imagine a bigger man from a Southern state pronouncing it in an accent, his large hands around a tiny, cheap glass of wine. Maybe it’s the alliteration, or the ugly “Chard” introduction to the word…

But then I had a really cheap, really great encounter with the Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay. I don’t usually make it a habit to buy $6-$7 wines, but one summer day the Wine Spectator’s 89 point rating and the teeny price tag drew me in. You can read more about the tasting experience here.

And then I had another encounter, at over 2x the price of the Columbia Crest that solidified my taste for Chardonnay. I went to a Safeway wine tasting recently (it was every bit as sterile as it sounds, but I’m glad Safeway is trying to offer this!) and they had available a La Crema Chardonnay, Pinot Noir (from the Sonoma coast) and Kendall Jackson’s Summation red. I won’t go into how much I resist buying anything with a name so boring as Kendall Jackson and I’ll admit that I loved the Summation blend (against my aesthetic, creative judgment). I didn’t have high hopes for the Chardonnay, but once again, was surprised.

The 2009 La Crema Chardonnay ($14.99 on sale at Safeway/off sale $20) is a delicious, more adult Chardonnay). Though it was still rich with oak and silky smooth, the wine had a great hint of acidity that cut the smoothness. The dimension in this Chardonnay, blended flavors of honey and apple, complimented by the acidity, pushed it beyond the designation of an easy drinking, summer porch wine Chardonnay. I was blown away by the taste in store and bought it to go with some fresh basil, tomato, and mozzarella pizza. The freshness of all of the flavors reminded me of the crispness of early spring.

If you, like me, fear the large man holding a tiny glass of Chardonnay, pronouncing Merlot “Mer-lot,” or equally fear turning into a mini-skirt clad 90s lawyer ordering Chardonnay at a local bar (I’ve been watching Ally McBeal) – then try the La Crema Chardonnay. I think you’ll take a sip and picture a satisfied oenophile on a terrace somewhere in California, looking over a rolling sea, listening to sea birds.

1 comment:

  1. WA chardonnay's dope. Y'all gotta try Stimson Reserve. It caramelizes onions like NONE OTHER! The best part is that it's passably tasty (one for for my onions).